Realism in art is not just a matter of technical skill. It has to be smart. Small changes in the right details can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the entire painting. To see this in action, simply have several realistic artists paint or draw the same subject. You’ll find differences in skill of course. But underneath that is the small differences in how each individual sees and interprets that with handling of the paint. They add up to a huge difference in each painting. No two will ever be alike. Those differences amount to the effect of the individual consciousness of that painter.
Can reality be whimsical? I painted the red-eyed tree frog for a character that would be branded and used for a line of merchandise. I used a few human gestures, basically “flirting” body language, but otherwise I made it as accurate as I could. This frog is naturally a living cartoon. The adaptations to make it more appealing to humans are very subtle.
For this toucan, I made no attempt at spinning it towards a cartoon. That’s what he looks like.