No stopping Bill Treichel, 95, as he paints Australian outback landscapes onto bottle tops

With an eagle eye, Bill Treichel puts his paintbrush to a small bottle high in front of him.

Not even the crowing of a rooster from the garden can stop his thoughts.

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An old man, wearing a headband, a blue t-shirt, works with a brush, brushes, easel, paint by his side.
Bill has been painting since the 1960s.(ABC Far South: Amanda Cranston)

“I like to paint from 7 to 9 in the morning because the light is usually calm… after that, you get cuckoo,” the 95-year-old said.

Bill spends hours every morning in his art studio – a converted caravan in his Millaa Millaa countryside 100 kilometers from Cairns.

An old man, wearing a headband, blue t-shirt, shorts, stands in front of his old, dirty trailer.
Bill Treichel converted an old trailer into an art studio.(ABC Far South: Amanda Cranston)

He has been painting since the 1960s, but the idea of ​​creating detailed Australian landscapes on bottles came to him 20 years ago.

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

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

Bill’s strong work ethic and desire to keep working sees him painting 12 bottles a day – sometimes more.

Each design is unique, often inspired by his time on the land panning for gold with his son Adam Treichel.

Close up of two beer bottles with paint inside them.
Bill Treichel is inspired by the places he has visited.(ABC Far South: Amanda Cranston)

“Sometimes I paint a scene, and I think, ‘Geez, that’s cool. I’ll do another one like that,'” said Bill.

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

Close many of the painted bottle caps that are drying on the bench.
When Bill paints an area, he covers it in resin and leaves it to set.(ABC Far South: Amanda Cranston)

How does he do it?

Bill made arrangements with his residence, the Malanda Hotel, where the bottles are collected, ready to be his next professional.

Once he has collected them, Bill prepares the top bottle by removing the plastic cover from the inside of the cap and “gives them a good wash”.

Close up from over the shoulder of an old man with white hair under a green belt, painting over a bottle.
Bill Treichel paints about a dozen top bottles every day.(ABC Far South: Amanda Cranston)

He paints the background white on the base, then the sky, before thinking about the situation.

“I’m not as quick to draw pictures as I used to be when I was younger,” he said.

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

When he’s done, Bill covers the top of the bottles in resin to protect them and leaves them for a day to set.

An old man, wearing a green headband, glasses, a t-shirt with blue dots, chooses a paintbrush while sitting at a desk.
Bill Treichel says he adds a lot more to the pictures now.(ABC Far South: Amanda Cranston)

‘One bugger done’

Bill used to sell his high-end bottle art at flea markets, but now he does it for fun.

Near the top are six painted bottles with clear surfaces.
Some of the many other outdoor scenes Bill painted on his magnetically-supported bottle-top art(ABC Far South: Amanda Cranston)

“I like to paint them. It’s something to do, and it keeps me busy,” she said.

“And every time I finish a row of bottles I say to myself, ‘That’s one bugger done’.”

And there have been quite a few lines made over the years, with thousands in the collection.

Sarah Walker, one of Bill’s sons Adam, said she hoped that one day she would be able to sell unique art online.

The view from outside looks into the trailer where a man is sitting at a table painting.
Bill prepares the top bottle by removing the plastic cover from the inside of the cap.(ABC Far South: Amanda Cranston)

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

“I don’t think he’ll ever stop. In fact, he told me he’ll be doing this until he’s 113.”

A man leaning on a stick, stands inside a caravan with his art next to him on a table.
Bill has many bottle creations.(ABC Far South: Amanda Cranston)

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