Get some cheap lighting and a digital camera. Some brooding/work lamps with different wattage bulbs from the hardware store and play around. Reflectors made with tinfoil and foamcore. White gauze to diffuse light. It's not versatile like the purpose made stuff, but it's an efficient way to learn. There is essentially nothing new in artificial lighting. A DSLR is an easy to way test setups. If you want to start with strobes, get some monolights with modeling lamps. If you don't have modeling lamps, you won't be able to see what you're adjusting as you move the subject and lights around.
For me, it's three things... 1. testing and trying things. 2. looking at highlights and shadows in photos to see where the lighting sources were and their relative strength. 3. understanding the inverse square law to understand the relationship between light-subject distance and brightness.
There's also a website and phenomena called strobist. It's partly a gear whoring site for tinkerers, and partly an inspiration site for when photographers aren't feeling creative, sort of like you might head to allrecipes when you're hungry, but don't know what you want to cook. It won't turn you into an awesome photographer any more than allrecipies will make you a chef, but it shows some interesting possibilities.
I'm told Charles Abel's book, "professional portrait lightings" has some of the documentation you are looking for, but it's too expensive for me to purchase. If you could borrow it from some library loan system, it might be worth checking out.