In 1933, he began attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he became close friends with a fellow student, future pulp illustrator Earl Mayan. Cartier majored in illustration, studying with Western pulp illustrator Harold Winfield Scott (1898-1977) and Maitland Graves, author of The Art of Color and Design
(1941). In his essay, "The Shadows of My Past" (a foreword to Volume 16 of Anthony Tollin's Shadow trade paperbacks
), Cartier wrote, "Graves taught figure drawing and was instrumental in my ability to depict anatomy, both human—and not so human. Scott taught pictorial illustration, and through him I feel privileged to trace an unbroken chain of art instruction back to Howard Pyle, the father of American illustration. The links are fairly close: Scott had studied under Dean Cornwell, a student of Harvey Dunn, who in turn studied with Pyle. Harold Scott became my mentor and advisor."
Pratt instructor William James was a Street & Smith art director, and he opened the door that enabled Cartier to begin his professional career: "I began by doing a single illustration per week for Street & Smith pulps like Wild West Weekly, Movie Action
and Detective Story Magazine
while still attending Pratt, and was paid eight dollars for each drawing. But they soon began giving me more assignments. When I graduated in 1936, James offered me a steady assignment illustrating The Shadow
’s adventures. The regular artist, Tom Lovell, was moving on to pursue a painting career, so I alternated with him illustrating the twice-monthly novels."
Graduating from Pratt, Cartier and Earl Mayan leased a Manhattan studio on the fourth floor of an Upper West Side brownstone, but a lack of assignments prompted Mayan to move out within a year. Six months later, Cartier moved back to North Bergen where he set up his studio on the floor above Cartier’s Saloon, collecting scrap lumber to construct a drawing table which he used the rest of his life.
As an advisor, Scott may not have always given the best advice. Norman Rockwell liked what he saw in Cartier's Shadow
illustrations and wrote a letter offering him a job as an assistant. Cartier recalled, "I went to Harold and asked his opinion. 'If you study with Norman Rockwell, you’re just going to become another Norman Rockwell,' Scott advised. 'You’ll be influenced entirely by him. You should remain on your own.' So I turned down Rockwell’s job offer, though I have regretted doing so ever since." The regret, one can speculate, is that contact with Rockwell could have catapulted Cartier into the pages of The Saturday Evening Post
. The notion that Cartier could have become some kind of Rockwell clone doesn't wash, if that is indeed what Scott was suggesting.
He continued to illustrate for Street & Smith pulps, mainly focusing on The Shadow
. As he recalled, "My illustrations evolved with each new issue. I abandoned pen-and-ink, preferring to use a combination of brush, ink, tempera and lithographic pencil. I worked almost exclusively on the lightly-textured surface of illustration board, usually Bainbridge #80, roughing in my Shadow
drawings on the board with a pencil, then outlining the illustration with brush and ink. Next came brush and tempera, combined with ink for the darker areas. Finally, I would erase my original penciling and finish up by adding shading with a lithographic pencil. Sometimes I added a bit of red ink to my originals, usually in the eyes or as dripping blood, the red ink reproducing as black on the printed page. A typical drawing was usually one by one-and-a-half feet in size, or one-and-a-half by two feet, or sometimes larger, even though it might be reduced in the pulps to as small as a quarter of a page—or smaller still, as a spot illustration."
He illustrated for other Street & Smith mystery magazines, including The Whisperer, The Wizard
and Detective Story Magazine
, and then expanded into fantasy and science fiction, as he recalled: "In 1939, the editor of Street & Smith’s Astounding Science-Fiction
offered me the opportunity to illustrate an extraordinary new magazine he was launching to be titled Unknown
. John W. Campbell, Jr., thought I would be ideally suited to illustrating fantasy. I always enjoyed drawing the weird and fantastic nature of The Shadow’s adventures. And John said he had often admired that quality in my illustrations before he asked me to illustrate Unknown
. After I illustrated the lead story in the first issue of Unknown
—with my former instructor Harold Scott providing the cover painting—William James asked me if I would mind having someone else take over The Shadow
so I could concentrate on science fiction and fantasy. I said it was okay with me, since I also liked science fiction.
"When I was a kid, my brothers Alfred and Vincent read as much science fiction as they could get their hands on. They had Hugo Gernsback’s magazines, and shared them with me. At first, I thought the stories were too fantastic. But I was soon hooked on the genre. After I became an illustrator, I knew it would be fascinating to do science fiction art, and I was pleased to move on to Unknown
and also Astounding Science Fiction
. I gave up illustrating The Shadow’s adventures in 1940, and the work was turned over to my former roommate Earl Mayan." For those two magazines Cartier did many interior illustrations. However, he only did four covers for Unknown
, a magazine which sent him into strange new realms, as noted by Robert Weinberg (The Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists
), “That's where he really shined. He had a deft caricature style, and he was able to draw not just very expressive people but expressive creatures like fairies, gnomes and gods... He really excelled at monsters. There was one, a puddle of slime that could assume different forms, and he showed it as an icky, drippy humanoid rising from the ooze. It was fantastic.”
Cartier married his wife Georgina in 1943. During World War II, he enlisted in the Army in 1941 and, after drawing maps in Britain, he fought as an infantryman and a machine gunner with a tank battalion located in France and Germany. After he was severely wounded in Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge and his hospital train was blown apart, he received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
Returning to the United States, he illustrated the final year of The Shadow
as a digest magazine, continued with Astounding and entered the field of comic books with both covers and stories for Street & Smith's Red Dragon. While creating attractive book jackets for Gnome Press and Fantasy Press, he also produced the memorable 1949-50 Gnome Press Calendars, drawing gnomes, fantasy and science fiction into strange seasonal situations. Also in 1949 he did a series of illustrations for King Features Syndicate newspaper serials.
Dave Kyle recalled launching Gnome Press with Marty Greenberg and working with Cartier on the 1951 book, Travelers of Space: "When the first books were printed in my family printing shop in Monticello, I had little practical experience but a lot of enthusiasm and energy. Courses at Columbia University helped immensely in steering me along the way. Using my artistic talent and training, I designed the original colophon or special identifying design for Gnome Press -- a gnome sitting under a toadstool reading a book, inspired by the design used by my father for Merriewold, a mountain residential park. The early books were designed by me and the quality was kept very high. I believe that the little touches which cost a bit more, such as my little symbol embossed in the cover of Asimov's I, Robot, the chain design for the title page of Heinlein's Sixth Column, and the split binding and special embossed rocketship on anthologies, made Gnome books distinctive.
"I designed and wrote all the copy for the early books, drawing designs when appropriate. Professional book printers were used, especially Colonial Press in Massachusetts which had an office on 42nd Street opposite the New York Public Library. I collaborated with Edd Cartier in several ways, the best being the illustrations for my story of the "Interplanetary Zoo"; this was an interesting project because the full color signature or folio in the anthology Travelers of Space was actually done from black-and-white drawings. All color was laid in by a talented printing plant technician who worked with me for the final results. He had done similar work for Lloyd A. Eshbach in the production of some of Lloyd's Fantasy Press books."
Cartier attended Pratt again on the G.I. Bill, receiving a fine arts degree in 1953. Supporting a family on the low pay of freelance science fiction art (at a time pulp magazines were coming to an end) prompted Cartier to seek employment in a different field, and he found a position as a draftsman for an engineering firm during the 1950s. Living in Ramsey, New Jersey, Cartier worked for more than 25 years as an art director with Mosstype, a Waldwick, New Jersey, manufacturer specializing in printing machinery. In Ramsey, he joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 682 in 1960 and became captain of the VFW Color Guard, leading parades for 26 years and organizing Veterans Day ceremonies. He was a member of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the Ramsey Historical Association.
In 1992 he was given the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1996 and 2001 he was nominated for Retro Hugo Awards for artwork published in 1945 and 1951. His work was collected in Edd Cartier: The Known and the Unknown, published in a 2000-copy limited edition hardcover by Gerry de la Ree in 1977, and his illustrations of L. Ron Hubbard's fiction were reprinted in Master Storyteller: An Illustrated Tour of the Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard by William J. Widder (Galaxy Press, 2003.).