My Art School Job
I had a somewhat unorthodox art education. I worked for the art school (Syn Studio) where I studied. First as an intern and than as the office manager.
A big part of my job was helping the teachers prepare the set up for their classes. As an intern I would come 20 min before the class and help them set up the lights and the backdrops for the subjects we would draw (we always worked from life). As the manager I trained interns to help with set up.
Learning to Set Up Lighting
All of this meant I learned how to set up and light a still life subject for an academic drawing. Seems like a silly thing to brag or blog about but for me it was a big deal. Doing these set ups week after week, and than drawing them in class, I had a better understanding of what my teachers were trying to communicate with each exercise.
It comes back to this idea of active observation. As artists we are always trying to overcome the temptation to simply copy what we see. Great art should communicate a profound understanding of the subject.
In a very basic exercise like drawing geometric shapes we are trying to understand how light interacts with form. The aim of my shadow box (something I learned to build as an intern) is to block out the light so that only the lamp light is hitting the shapes.
In real life there are very few situations where a subject is only lit from one side. But the knowledge you gain from this exercise becomes a tool for understanding more complex lighting situations.