An Overview

Thanks for visiting. My name is Matt Ballou. I teach at the University of Missouri’s School of Visual Studies, where I’ve been since 2007. At this site you can see a range of my visual and written work.

Who I Am

I am an artist, teacher, writer, and dad who lives in Mid Missouri. This blog, which I began in 2009, records my art practice, as well as words and images that I use to reflect on my experiences in this life. I’m trying to learn how to see and dream well.

Please browse the various areas in the menu above for more about me. In particular, my adventures in China and at Ox-bow have been integral to who I have become. Additionally, my heart attack was a watershed event that produced radical changes in my art and life.


I have shown my artwork in exhibitions across the US, from Illinois, Kansas, and Massachusetts to New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Washington. I have developed and curated exhibitions in Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, and Nebraska. My areas of research include:

  • Comparing and contrasting Eastern and Western Mandala forms
  • Exploring and writing about the work of Miyoko Ito, Richard Diebenkorn, and several other artists
  • Investigating how natively digital art practices interact with physical materials
  • Developing pedagogical uses of technology and online learning environments
  • Using CNC routers, laser engravers, and various drawing robots in the development of artworks


My writing has been a key aspect of my practice for over twenty years. Publication highlights include a cover feature on the work of Odd Nerdrum in Image Journal, a profile on painter Joey Borovicka in The New Territory, and an extensive review of Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Retrospective for the Chicago-based publication neotericART. In the last few years I completed invited texts for The MU Museum of Art and Archaeology, SEEN Journal, and Oxford University Press (Grove Art). See my Bio and CV for more. Several of my personal favorites are linked here.

Current Art

I have had several areas of art-making going on simultaneously over the last decade or so:

I also participate in several collaborations:

Please see my Portfolio for a broader overview of my art making and projects.

If you’d like to support me, Buy Me A Coffee, or visit my Etsy Shop for inexpensive studies, drawings, and prints (when available).

Ballou – Node Trip (WHENEVERwhen). Permanent marker, highlighter, ink, and acrylic on YUPO. 13×12 inches. 2022.

Tondo Jig

I’ve finally gotten to set up my tondo making jig in my new woodshop. Here’s a run down of how it looks and an example of what it can do.

Here you can see the basic layout. I’ve created the body of the jig on a nice piece of half inch by 6 inch by 3 foot oak. Being a hard, strong wood, the oak will hold the mounted router well. The router itself (a nice mid-range Porter Cable model) is attached by removing its base plate and mounting it to the oak board as shown. The screws are recessed to assure good connection to the router.

Then I mounted a small “lazy susan” type ball bearing swivel deck to the other end of the board. I’ve measured and pre-drilled stations for the swivel deck in my standard tondo sizes – 12 inches (to give me a 24 inch tondo), 20 inches (40 inch tondo) and 24 inchs (48 inch tondo). I set it up to move the swivel deck to reduce wear and tear on the router mount area. I don’t want to take the router off at all. You can see how I’ve put some base plates along each edge of the board on the router end so the swivel deck and router approach are level when placed on the board to be cut.

To cut a tondo, I select my size (in this case, I want a 24 inch tondo) and put the swivel deck there (above). Then I screw down the other side of the swivel deck to the board to be cut so things are nice and secure (below).

Then – with the bit still recessed up into the body – I will start the router and slowly plunge the bit about halfway into my wood. I learned in my previous experience with cutting tondos to take it slow and cut in a few passes to ensure a good, smooth cut but also to protect the router. The harder the wood, the more wear on the router – obviously with this piece of MDF the router could have done the entire cut in one pass, but I feel more comfortable taking a few extra minutes to keep the tool nice.

After the first pass – and each subsequent one – I use my compressor to blow out the dust. This increases the ease of the next pass and keeps the risk of charring or actual combustion down. I also make sure to blow out the vents of the router since the sparking within the motor can ignite dust that collects there.

In the above picture you can see the bit being adjusted down for the final pass.

After the final cut I remove the excess wood and blow off the dust (above), then remove the swivel deck and start to sand any burrs (below)

Here’s a look at the edge of the tondo – pretty smooth cut!

And the final products!

Lieutenant Commander Miranda Grace Ballou

Today Miranda got to wear her Star Trek onesie. It’s a blue one – standing for Science Officer for those of you are aren’t in the know. We used the momentous occasion to watch a bit of Star Trek: Generations. Awesome. Here are some pics:

In her Captain’s Chair with the Generations DVD

“That’s Commander Riker. He was just on the holodeck, that’s why he’s dressed up like that!”

She’s already thinking about space!

Next time I’ll teach her all about Data, Miranda-class starships (such as the USS Reliant of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan fame, pictured below), and eventually introduce her to the best captain ever (Picard, obviously).