When creating a picture, one of the most important decisions is what color to choose. You have two options. You can choose the local color, that color which is generally acceptable and understood to be the objects "real" color. Or, you can choose a symbolic color, a color that is not the objects "real" color but changes the way the viewer might interpret the object. Let's look at the example below.
Illustration by Mark Mulroney
Here we have two pictures of what appears to be the same thing. On the left we have an example of local color. The colors make sense and are similar to what we'd expect to find in the real world. The Mets player appears to be happy in his home uniform, and ready to take the field to battle for a victory or perhaps a fat off-season contract extension.
The picture on the right is of that same player but the colors are all askew, which forces the viewer to interpret the image in a different way. Are we to assume that this player really has yellow teeth, perhaps from years of smoking or tartar build-up? Of course not. This is an example of symbolic color, and we are tasked with the job of trying to figure out why this artist chose these colors. Is this player a hippy, a communist, or just totally insane? That is for the viewer to decide for themselves. What fun!!
Your Humble Servant,