There’s no stopping Bill Treichel, 95, as he paints Australian outback landscapes on bottle tops

With an eagle eye, Bill Treichel applies his brush to the small bottle top in front of him.

Not even the cock’s crow from the garden can break his concentration.

An elderly man, wearing a headband, blue polka dot t-shirt, works with a brush, brushes, easel, paint next to him.
Bill has been painting since the 1960s.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

“I like to paint from about seven to nine in the morning because the light is generally pretty steady … after that it goes cuckoo,” said the 95-year-old.

Bill spends hours every morning in his art studio – a converted caravan on his rural Millaa Millaa property about 100 kilometers inland from Cairns.

Elderly man, wearing headband, dotted blue t-shirts, shorts, standing in front of his old, dirty caravan.
Bill Treichel has converted an old caravan into an art studio.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

He has been painting since the 1960s, but the idea to create detailed Australian landscapes on bottle tops came to him about 20 years ago.

“I was at home one afternoon drinking a stub,” he said.

“And I swung the bottle top in the air and all of a sudden the idea popped into my head and that’s how it started.”

Bill’s strong work ethic and desire to stay active lead him to paint at least 12 bottle tops a day – sometimes more.

Each design is unique, often inspired by his time in the country prospecting for gold with his son Adam Treichel.

A close-up of two beer bottle tops with painting inside.
Bill Treichel is inspired by the places he has visited.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

“Sometimes I paint a landscape and I think, ‘Gee, that’s good. I’m going to do another one, just like that,'” Bill said.

“But there’s no way in the world I’ll even come close to that. It’s very hard to make two alike, I tell you.”

Close-up of lots of painted bottle caps drying on the bench.
When Bill paints landscapes, he covers them with resin and lets them harden.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

How does he do it?

Bill has made an agreement with his local, the Malanda Hotel, where the bottle top is assembled, ready to become his next masterpiece.

After collecting them, Bill prepares the bottle top by removing the plastic cap inside the cap and “gives them a good wash”.

An over-the-shoulder close-up of an older man with gray hair under a green ribbon painting a bottle top.
Bill Treichel paints at least 12 bottle tops every day.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

He paints a white background on the bottom, then the sky before deciding on the landscape.

“I’m not as quick to paint as I was when I was younger,” he said.

“I used to be able to do them in six minutes. Now I take longer, but I also include a lot more detail these days.”

When finished, Bill covers the bottle tops with resin for protection and leaves it for a day to set.

An elderly man, wearing a green headband, glasses, blue polka dot t-shirt, chooses a brush while sitting at a desk.
Bill Treichel says he adds a lot more detail to the paintings now.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

‘Another villain done’

Bill used to sell his bottle art at markets, but now he does it for pure enjoyment.

Close-up of six painted bottle tops with vivid landscapes.
Some of the many outback landscapes Bill has painted on his magnet-baked bottle-top art(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

“I just like painting them. It’s something to do and it keeps me busy,” he said.

“And every time I finish a row of bottle tops, I say to myself, ‘That’s another villain done’.”

And a few rows have been made over the years, with thousands in the collection.

Sarah Walker, the partner of Bill’s son Adam, said she hoped he would one day be able to sell the unique art online.

An outside view looking into a caravan where a man is sitting at a table painting.
Bill prepares the bottle top by removing the plastic cap inside the cap.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

“I’ve never seen anyone else do this type of art and Bill really enjoys making them,” Ms Walker said.

“I don’t think he’ll ever give it up. In fact, he told me he’s going to do this until he’s 113.”

Man leaning on a stick, standing inside a caravan with his art next to him on a table.
Bill with his many bottle-top creations.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

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