Will Saunders - "The universe is sort of at your fingertips"

Every month we commission a different artist to design our weekly gig guide posters and for the month of August/Hereturikōkā we have the pleasure of working with local artist Will Saunders. Will is a cartoonist and illustrator who specialises in incredibly detailed hand drawn work. He’s also a musician and has been part of the fabric of Karangahape Rd since the 90s. We caught up with Will to talk about some of iconic 90s publications he was involved with, his art process and his band.

Will Saunders photo.jpeg

NOTW: It's always exciting when we get an artist who does everything by hand. In this current age of digital art, what's your continued attraction to the hand drawn medium? 

Will Saunders: The physical act of ink on paper being defined by hand is something I’ve always loved from art to writing. It’s almost like a small part of the individual’s actual life energy is captured in some way - I think it’s the same with painting - and I don’t find it in the same way typing on a computer, for example. Also the immediacy of a line seems more definitive, and totally unique when you know you can’t easily type ‘undo’ if you want to alter or erase it.

I’ve always thought that if you have access to a piece of blank paper and some tool you can utilise to create something that has never existed before, the universe is sort of at your fingertips.

For me, that’s always allowed a kind of freedom for anyone to create whatever worlds, words, space, time, imagery and existence they can possibly imagine - and make it real - if only on paper. 

“oH No Not again”

“oH No Not again”

But then that in itself is real so the whole thing still kind of blows my mind…

Having said all that I do of course colour my posters digitally - as I’m still getting used to painting. But hopefully one fine day I can approach something similar to the fantastic  artwork hand-drawn and hand-painted for the NOTW ‘Boog’ posters…but hey - we can all have a dream right?!

Poster for Space Your Face - a St Kevin’s Store in the 90s

Poster for Space Your Face - a St Kevin’s Store in the 90s

NOTW: A lot of your work has always had music and musicians at the core of it. How does music influence your visual art? 

WS: The rhythm and timing of sequential comics always correlated with the same parts of the brain as music for me I think, and I’ll still find myself painting or drawing in time to the music I always have playing.

As far as the amount of musicians and music that has appeared in what I’ve done over the years, I think it’s probably a by-product of being interested in, and around music for a long time. Bands will commission posters or album art and publications will ask for music related imagery. 

I find drawing portraits really hard so I’m lucky in the fact I’ve not often had to draw people who’s music I don’t like. 

There’s is one (once) over-rated hack - who I always thought was just a plagiaristic chump - that I did a cover of. His stupid puffy face was a hard one not to make fun of.

Will Saunders limited run Neck of the Woods stickers

Will Saunders limited run Neck of the Woods stickers

NOTW: And like a number of the visual artists we work with, you're also a musician. Can you tell us a little about the different bands you've been involved with?

WS: My first band played in pubs around Whanganui when I was 14 and I started playing guitar and writing my first original songs around the same time. When I moved to Auckland I always loved jamming with whoever would put up with me thrashing away. 

When I moved to the U.K busking was often handy in getting some coin and I began recording on a Tascam 4-track cassette machine. I put an ad in the NME and put together a band called Siren. When I moved back to Aotearoa the plan was to ‘settle down’, but things didn’t work out that way and I formed The Quick and the Dead.


After that I began recording and releasing solo music under my own name. Then formed bands Bearhat and after that The Lowest Fidelity.

All of the bands gigged regularly and recorded music (available on Bandcamp) and I’ve been very fortunate that everyone I’ve been in bands with has always been a wonderful human and a friend as well.

My latest band is called Trepidations and our next gig will be Friday 13th September at Whammy Backroom…


NOTW: I left high school and moved to Auckland in the mid 90s and remember sending numerous copies of The Fix - the quintessential gig guide you were part of - to my friends in Wellington as indisputable proof that Auckland was so much cooler. Would you say those gig guides were influential in nurturing that music scene / nightlife culture at the time? 

WS: Ha ha! Wellington definitely has cooler weather last time I checked!

It’s quite hard for people to think back to pre-cellphone and internet days and imagine how things were…It’s pretty staggering how much has changed. 

But yeah posters, gig guides and printed zines etc were the only link everyone had to what was going on so I’d certainly agree they played quite a large part.

From Tearaway Magazine’s Legal Advice page

From Tearaway Magazine’s Legal Advice page

NOTW: And speaking of iconic 90s publications - you were involved in Tearaway too! At the risk of sounding like we're yelling at clouds, are kids these days missing out by not having something like Tearaway delivered right to their school desk every month? 

WS: These days I only find myself yelling at scattered e-scooters when I trip over them while looking at a particularly interesting cloud…so times have certainly changed…

Tearaway was a great thing to have at the time - run by a small team in Whanganui with hearts in the right place, and the letters we received showed just how much it was loved in it’s printed form.

As culture has changed I hope that there’s a way new generations can access valuable information like that somewhere and utilise it within the current blizzard of online insanity we all face these days.


NOTW: You've already seen Karangahape Road go through a lot of changes since the mid 90s. I'm curious to know how you feel about the upcoming "Revitalisation Project" on K' Road? 

WS: Does it actually need ‘revitalising’? …Sounds a bit like a snappy buzzword title for the inevitable creeping gentrification that will eventually take over everything, everywhere, anyway to me. But life is change and it’s going to happen regardless of how anyone feels, so I’ll probably only have an opinion on it when it’s already happened and I’ve been priced far out of Auckland. 

When’s the protest against it scheduled for?..Do they need a poster done? …hit me up!

NOTW: What’s your perfect night out on Karangahape Road?

WS: Playing a gig, having a dance and some laughs, then playing more music with nice people enjoying life.

flying out signs.jpg

NOTW: What projects are you working on now / have coming up next? (musical, visual, whatever you want to plug!) 

WS: After a recent run of the Flying Out Shlipp comix art show last month then painting their street sign, and along with the NOTW poster and sticker projects this month I’m gonna have to figure out something to do next…I’ve had two solo e.p’s out this year too, so other than writing, gigging and recording with Trepidations no real plans - but something always seems to pop up.

NOTW: And lastly, what are you currently listening to while making art?

WS: bFM is always on basically but some tunes that have been hitting the spot recently include:

Tiny Ruins - How Much

The Beatles - Anytime at All

David Byrne & Brian Eno - Strange Overtones

Minnie Riperton - Les Fleurs

David Bowie - Scary Monsters album

Death - Keep On Knocking

Stereolab - French Disco

Beach House - Zebra

Trans Am - Play In the Summer

Marvin Gaye - Sunny

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - There She Goes my Beautiful World

Follow Will Saunders on Instagram and Facebook and browse his huge archive of work on his website