Date of Award

Spring 6-1-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



First Advisor

Dr. Lucy Spelman, Executive Director and Founder of Creature Conserve

Second Advisor

Gates Callanan, RISD Critic FAV

Third Advisor

Calef Brown, Graduate Program Director, Illustration


Being part of RISD's inaugural Masters of Illustration cohort has been an immense honor. This journey has been nothing short of transformative and healing, as it has allowed me to unearth layers of self-discovery through my creative practice.

In my thesis, I introduce a fresh research methodology rooted in the principles of call and response, with adaptability, creativity, and storytelling as its foundational pillars. Through the lenses of visual storytelling, experimental animation, graphic journalism, and fictional world-building, I demonstrate how these techniques can effectively bridge the gap between theory and practice. This dynamic approach fosters meaningful connections among diverse perspectives and lived realities, drawing from my own experiences and academic pursuits.

The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of my journey through academia, marked by moments of upheaval and uncertainty. Through this lens, I showcase the development of the methodology, aiming to embrace the resilience inherent in the experience of being human. My exploration within the Illustration Master's program at RISD serves as a catalyst, where I engage with diverse mediums and techniques, particularly visual methods, to craft narratives that resonate with complex phenomena and stimulate dialogue.

At the heart of my thesis is an exploration of various multi-sensory techniques, including photojournalism, visual storytelling, sound illustration, theatre performance, and participatory art-making. I examine these techniques for their ability to yield rich and nuanced data while prioritizing reflexivity and ethical considerations in arts-based research practice.

Ultimately, my proposed research methodology aims to deepen our understanding of social phenomena and cultivate spaces for collaborative exploration and discovery. By emphasizing adaptability, creativity, and storytelling, this approach offers a responsive framework for researchers to engage with complex issues and diverse perspectives, fostering connections and insights that transcend traditional research paradigms.

Deanne Fernandes_Creature Conserve Story Nights_Zine 1.pdf (7540 kB)
A RISD SPUR-Funded Project: Creature Conserve Story Nights Zine Creature Conserve Story Nights is a series of interactive workshops designed to explore our connection with animal species and shared ecosystems. Funded by RISD SPUR, this project employs a call and response arts-based research methodology. This zine documents the creative process, highlighting how art can deepen our understanding of these vital connections and foster meaningful dialogue about conservation.

Deanne Fernandes_Zine 2 .pdf (21147 kB)
An experimental story research zine in collaboration with Illustrator and Designer Roye Zhang

Deanne Fernandes_Call and Response Animation.mp4 (45337 kB)
An experimental animation film that records sound as a diary entry

Deanne Fernandes_Illustrating Sound.MP4 (142386 kB)



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