Helen McCarthey
August 30, 2019

Helen McCarthy, Paint Shop Manager

In an earlier entry, we introduced our newest series of blog posts highlighting the different branches of the fabrication team – paint, metal, and woodworking. We’ve been collaborating with our fabrication team to help give you, our clients and followers, a closer look at what goes on behind the scenes in our warehouse! Last time we sat down with Harrison Rabel, Director of Production Services to discuss his past experiences and process. We’re excited to roll out the rest of the blog posts over the upcoming months! For the next post in the series, I caught up with VDA’s Paint Shop Manager, Helen McCarthy to discuss her education, experience, creative process, and all things paint…

Meet the “Dirty Hippie”.

As I walked into the paint shop at our decided upon time, I saw Helen in the far-left corner furling up a roll of vinyl. With each step, it became clear that the sheet was covered with hundreds of red glittery horses – affectionately called “sparkle ponies” in the VDA office, an inside joke among the crew. A self-described “dirty hippie,” with aspirations to run her own alpaca farm/scenic art studio, Helen has some serious credentials in the Boston creative community. A proud member of the United Scenic Artists local 829 union, Helen has been painting for film and theatre professionally since her teenage years. An Emerson College alum, and graduate of Boston University’s rigorous and intensive, certificate scenic painting program, under the illustrious Diane Fargo , Helen has freelanced across the country as a Faux Finisher, Muralist, Scenic Artist/Charge, Designer, House Painter, and Installation Artist. Her theatrical work includes painting backdrops for Boston Ballet’s performances of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, prop painting for the A.R.T.’s production of Pippin and spending a summer as the associate scenic charge at the Williamstown Theater Festival in 2012.

Helen’s credentials extend beyond the stage – to the big screen – where she served as scenic charge for Manchester by the Sea (2016), (nominated for Art Directors Guild Award in 2017) during which time she was responsible for all painting, budgeting, crewing, and aging of props, costumes, vehicles, etc., as well as being on the scenic crew for Ghostbusters (2016), Patriots Day (2016), and Stronger (2017) to name a few.

The driving force of the Paint Shop Team.

Helen’s role at VDA is no different, where she “leads the charge” in the paint shop, liaising with the fabrication and design departments to help create a finished product. Once the design is approved and the set-piece built by the fabrication team, Helen creates samples of the faux treatments and instructs her team on how to paint the look. For a single faux wood finished piece, Helen might make several samples to streamline the process so it’s easy to replicate. That constant need to replicate and recreate requires a personalized lingo and vocabulary for the team to use to communicate with one another effectively. While “use a lighter hand and make it more comesy-goesy” might not mean very much to you and me, it’s essential in the paint shop to ensure consistency so one panel doesn’t look like English Chestnut while the other Red Mahogany.

In our next installment we will “talk shop” (literally) with our Fabrication Shop Manager, Jon Flynn, discussing selection of materials, crew dynamic, and build process among other topics. If you are interested in learning more about our team’s capabilities, and how VDA can be an integral part to your next experience, please contact sales@vdaproductions.com or call 888.868.9200 for more information.

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