With an eagle eye, Bill Treichel applies his paintbrush to the tiny bottle top in front of him.
Not even the rooster’s crow from the garden can break his concentration.
“I like to paint from about seven until nine in the morning because the light is generally pretty stable … after that, it gets cuckoo,” the 95-year-old said.
Bill spends hours each morning in his art studio — a converted caravan at his rural Millaa Millaa property about 100 kilometres inland from Cairns.
He has been painting since the 1960s, but the idea to craft detailed Australian landscapes onto bottle tops came to him about 20 years ago.
“I was at home one afternoon drinking a stubby,” he said.
“And I was flicking 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 remain active see him paint at least 12 bottle tops a day — sometimes more.
Each design is unique, often inspired by time on the land while gold prospecting with his son Adam Treichel.
“Sometimes I paint a landscape, and I think, ‘Geez, that’s good. I’ll do another one just like it,'” Bill said.
“But there’s no way in the world I even get close to it. It’s very hard to do two the same, I tell you.”
How does he do it?
Bill has struck up an arrangement with his local, the Malanda Hotel, where the bottle tops are collected, ready to become his next masterpiece.
Once he’s collected them, Bill prepares the bottle top by removing the plastic covering inside the lid and “gives them a good wash”.
He paints a white background onto the base, then the sky, before deciding on the landscape.
“I’m not as quick at painting 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.”
Once he’s finished, Bill covers the bottle tops in resin for protection and leaves it for a day to set.
‘Another bugger done’
Bill used to sell his bottle top art at markets, but now he does it for pure enjoyment.
“I just like painting them. It’s something to do, and it keeps me occupied,” he said.
“And every time I finish a row of bottle tops I say to myself, ‘That’s another bugger done’.”
And there have been a few rows done over the years, with thousands in the collection.
Sarah Walker, the partner of Bill’s son Adam, said she hoped that one day he would be able to sell the unique art online.
“I’ve never seen anyone else doing this type of art, and Bill really enjoys making them,” Ms Walker said.
“I don’t think he will ever give it up. In fact, he told me he’ll be doing this until he is 113.”