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Andrew Whitehead's journey from roadside dreamer to iron horse sculptor

A  dead-boring job in the Riverina flat country and his second wife Daphne drove Andrew Whitehead into his workshop, where he made a cow.

A friend urged him to enter his cow in Lockhart's first national farm art sculpture award, which he won.  "The judges weren't hillbillies," says Whitehead. "They were professionals out of Sydney, they picked my stupid cow."

Now a full-time sculptor, Whitehead's latest work, an iron horse with cast iron meter covers for hooves, chest and cheeks, has a $55,000 price tag on it. 

A farmer, army tank driver, diesel mechanic and plant operator, Whitehead's last job was manning a stop-and-go sign for Urana Shire. No one else wanted the job.

"But for an artist with an active mind it is really good. You have all the time in the world to think about what you are going to do on the weekend," he says. "You only get four cars a day on some of those roads , I knew who they were, so I'd sit down on my Esky and get out my sketch pad.

"When I was a young soldier, on Anzac Day they said, 'you young blokes go and talk to those old fogies over there'," he said, recounting early inspiration.


"We didn't want to do it. They were World War I veterans. I still remember one old guy talking about leaving his horse behind and there were tears in his eyes," says Whitehead.

This led to Clover, his story which became a poem and then a song about the horses that didn't get clover at the end of the war, they got a bullet, or were sold for meat.

Entering Jindabyne's Lake Light exhibition over Easter, Whitehead changed Clover to Freedom Run as a tribute to the mountain horses.

To make it,  Whitehead first worked out a scale, and from a main pole hung an internal frame for the back  end shaped like a farm gate, and a crane shape for the front. He attached 12 rails enabling him to dismantle and re-assemble his work like Lego.

Pressed chain off an old grain harvester from a dealer in old machinery at Bookham are used for the mane and tail.

Whitehead rats through extended family members' farms. They are all hoarders and he can spot rusty iron a mile away. "I go to the pub at Urana, come out after having a few beers and there's all this junk in the back of my ute," he said.

He has done three commissions, including Seamstress – a woman at her sewing machine, and daughter at her feet, which caused his Facebook site to explode with a million likes.