You're never too old to learn a new skill, or so the saying goes. And it's certainly proven true for 90-year-old Kalispell resident Robert "Bob" Martens, who is celebrating his first public art display in the Black Bear Bistro inside Montana Marie in downtown Kalispell.
"I didn't think they were good enough," Martens said of displaying his artwork. "I've really enjoyed painting; it gives me something to do."
Martens was born in South Dakota. He earned a degree in dentistry from Northwestern University and served in the U.S. Air Force. He said his career was spent practicing dentistry in Glasgow, Montana, for more than 50 years. During that time he and his wife raised three children, and he also obtained a private pilot's license.
"I love to fly," Martens said.
Never miss a local story.
He said he and his family enjoyed spending summers at their house on Flathead Lake, sailing their sailboat, which is what ultimately brought him to the area after his retirement. His wife passed away about 20 years ago, and his two daughters and their families live in the Chicago area. His son lives here in Kalispell.
In addition to a couple of close calls while flying and sailing over the years, Martens said he has also survived two strokes, two heart attacks, multiple broken bones and a bout with cancer.
"This man has gotten up after all these things," said local artist and art instructor Diana Neville Knowles. "It's just incredible."
Despite the hardships, Martens first picked up a paintbrush in his mid-70s.
"I started teaching here locally at Northland Hobby in 2006," Neville Knowles said. "Bob was one of my first students, and now he's had just about every one of my workshops."
Neville Knowles said Martens has done a variety of paintings over the years, including pastels and oils, but prefers to work primarily with acrylics.
"He's done a beautiful job," she said. "And he's working on another self-portrait (in class) now."
Martens said his favorite subjects are landscapes.
"I like landscapes because of all the beautiful colors," Martens said.
Neville Knowles said she thought so much of Martens' work that she felt he deserved to have some of it displayed and available for the public to enjoy or purchase. She said the showcase at Black Bear Bistro inside Montana Marie came together "like magic."
"I'm just thrilled," she said. "This is going to be wonderful."
The Black Bear Bistro recently relocated from Evergreen to the space inside Montana Marie, reopening for business on Nov. 1. A selection of Martens' work adorns the bright walls and is for sale, ranging from $175 to $600.
As for what comes next after his public art debut, Martens said, "I'll just keep painting."