The story behind Whanganui's most talked-about new public artwork began when a timid stray cat turned up at Whanganui Airport at the end of 2019.
Artist SwiftMantis has spent the past week painting a gigantic cat mural on St Hill St as part of the Whanganui Walls street art and music festival which was held over the weekend.
The site was still attracting attention on Wednesday as SwiftMantis was adding some whiskers with passersby offering their congratulations on a job well done.
The cat in question, Hangar, was a stray that has now set up shop at the Whanganui Airport and is the latest in a series of cat murals the Palmerston North-based SwiftMantis has completed.
"The first step is the photography stage, which I try to do myself if I can," SwiftMantis said.
"Because you're looking at the mural from below that cat's eye level, you have to photograph it in the same sense, as if you're a viewer on the ground.
"That usually means having a bit of a difficult photoshoot with the cat, with me lying on the ground trying to shoot upwards, while Molly [Strang, his partner] holds a light."
He then used a "scribble grid" on the wall, which, to the untrained eye, resembles graffiti.
"That garnered about 200 questions over the four days," Strang said.
"It always throws everybody off, but as it progresses I think people start to say 'ah ok, that makes sense'.
"It's kind of like a proportioning tool for large-scale murals when you can't project the image."
SwiftMantis said both the scribble grid and projector methods were "pretty painstaking".
"I like the scribble grid, because I don't have to wait for dark to project, and I don't have to do a massive mark out in the night time," he said.
"This is the biggest cat I've ever painted. I started a day early and finished three days late."
Hangar isn't the first former stray SwiftMantis has painted.
"Last year at Street Prints festival I got the opportunity to do my own cat [Squishee], who was a stray, and that sort of sparked my whole 'stray stories' thing.
"I told her story, of how she just sort of popped into our lives. We didn't really want a cat but she just turned up and forced her way in.
"That really resonated with people, so I thought about taking it further, and then this opportunity came up.
"We started looking around for local strays who had been adopted and found a new home in an interesting place, and I've never met a cat that had a home in an airport before.
"He's a big fluffy guy, so it was great to really get that glorious mane."
Whanganui Aero Club instructor Leroy Johnson said Hangar had been with them for around 18 months.
"We already had an Aero Club cat called Sherman, whose since moved on to Tauranga," Johnson said.
"Hangar just turned up one day. He was a little bit timid, so we were feeding him, and he eventually became friendly.
"He was a stray, but I think he was abandoned because he had a collar with a bell. We advertised on Facebook and Lost Pets and all that sort of jazz, to reunite him with his owner, but we never had any feedback.
"We just thought he'd be a great friend for Sherman, then Sherman left and Hangar stayed."
He quickly became "a bit of an airport personality", Johnson said.
"He's not afraid of anything or anyone, he keeps the birds out of our hangar, and he climbs into the aircraft for a sleep.
"You can start an aircraft up right next to him when he's sleeping on the taxiway and he doesn't flinch.
"He also wanders down the apron and tries to get into the Air Chathams Saab while it's on layover, and wanders down to the terminal to greet the passengers."
SwiftMantis' artwork captured Hangar "really bloody well", Johnson said.
"We're going to try and take him down to have a look at it, but we'll see how that goes."