Why create a background with Gradient Mesh? Because it's 100% vector, and thus infinitely scalable. Better yet, you can achieve this effect using a low-res photo and no prior experience with Gradient Mesh.
Cheryl Graham trained as a traditional artist in drawing and painting. These days she spends more time in front of the computer than the easel. She's been using Adobe Illustrator for over 15 years. Her Illustrator work has been featured in the "The Adobe Illustrator WOW! Book" and "Real World Illustrator."