I found a beach sunset on google image search that I liked, and set about painting the background from it. Here’s the sky and the ground. You can see how I just worked on the biggest chunks first.
Then I added in the mountains and the ocean, once I knew what color the ocean was going to reflect. Also a scattering of clouds on a new layer. I’ve gotten to where I like painting my landscape backgrounds all on one layer, like a real painting.
The reason I always do the background first is because the background colors and light heavily influence the color of the characters. The characters are the juicy part for me, but the background is soothing to work on, too.
Here’s my background color reference: Laguna Beach! No, there won’t be a big hotel thing in the background.