Re: Abstract Art vs Realism
I think you're on target when you say "learning how to see". One thing I'll say about drawing the figure from life, is that it forces a way of seeing which causes our perception of the world around us to look a little different. Visually, things begin to have a more prowerful presence in the space they exist, literally.
I heard a drawing class (back in the 70's) where the students would observe a model then leave the room to draw what they had seen.