Of the two qualities Speed recommends (movement and authenticity), I would argue that authenticity is by far the more important. Movement is a skill that can be learned, but slavish imitation of another artist’s style is far more damaging both to an artist’s development and to their motivation. Personal style is best developed organically, without a lot of striving and searching, by following personal inclination and experimenting – with materials and theme and whatever else appeals – with enthusiasm and sincerity.
“Originality is more concerned with sincerity than with peculiarly.”
Although originality is often sincerely sought after and the result of this search is a kind of vitality, it’s a shallow vitality that isn’t anchored to a solid foundation of vision or concept and is liable to change suddenly or abruptly as new fads take the artist’s fancy. For art to be a thing of substance, it must consist of more than novelty. Striving to do better will lead to originality and bring with it a solid foundation of authenticity on which to build great things.
“All [the artist] can do is to be sincere and try to find out the things that really move him and that he really likes.”
While originality should not be sought for its own sake, it is equally futile to attempt to recreate past successes – the moment, once passed, can never be recaptured. For Speed, this means that copying the style of the old masters is an exercise in futility; their style is inextricably linked to their era, culture and history.
“It is only by scrupulously sincere and truthful attitude of mind that the new and original circumstances in which we find ourselves can be taken advantage of for the production of original work and self-consciously seeking after peculiarly only stops the natural evolution and produces abortions.”
In some cases, conventions are necessary. Materials have physical limitations that the artist has to work within (or around!). Never lose sight of the medium you’re working with, Speed says, and confine yourself to the qualities best expressed by the medium at hand.