There is no easy answer to the question other than observation and practice. James Gurney has a good book called Color and Light which shows how light and color work on complex shapes and on his blog, Gurney Journey, you can get some of the same things covered from the book there.
With enough observation you can roughly get the lights and shadows in close to the right place but even Gurney, with all of his paintings he has done, both Plein Aire (from life) and imagination, will make a maquette, or model of what he is painting to get it right in the end. His other good book for artist's that create from imagination is, Imaginative Realism.
So practice, observe, sketch from life and from models, that will begin to train your eye to really see. Start with shading the large areas, break the complex shapes into simple ones. A head is just an egg shape with a few other simple shapes attached to it like triangles, look for those shapes and then shade them like you say you can do. Make sure that your figures/animals look lit from your chosen light source.
If working digitally do a gray scale drawing/painting, you can always put color on a separate layer over the gray scale and play with it.
In the Renaissance it was common to paint a painting in gray scale and then using many layers of thin glazes to color the painting. Try this and see what you get.
Art is continually learning and observing the world around you so go forth and see. The more you do the better you will get. Good luck and draw on.