The best way to understand the principles of light and shadow is to observe the impact of light on objects in real life. I often arrange objects outside my studio and watch (and record) the changing impact of the sun over a 6 – 8 hour period. Many photos and drawings later, I have a good record of what occurred light and shadow-wise during the day.
Today’s collection of photos was taken within 60 seconds to give you an overview of what I had arranged, a variation on ‘Stonehenge’. Which photo do you prefer?
If you are after reality, an understand of light and shadow is vital if you want you artwork to be totally believable. ‘Guessing’ where shadows and light fall is not good enough if you want your work to be convincing. I owe a lot to my training at art school, especially in understanding the principles of drawing. Copying from books and photos is merely imitating what you see, but working from real-life examples will give you a far greater understanding and self-confidence, especially when on occasions you need to rely on your memory.
This type of study can also be conducted indoors with artificial lighting. Try this with 2 lights from opposite ends of a group of objects and see what the result is!
Working this way will also make you more conscious of the impact of light and shadow in your daily (and nightly) activities.