I think the ideal way to handle judging would be for all submissions to be via PM, then posted in a voting thread where people can each use two votes on their favorites, which won't have the creator's name attached. There will always be people who encourage their friends to vote for theirs, but the two vote system should mitigate that at least a little. Putting the voting thread on a more active forum would probably increase participation, if Logiedan can swing it.
Regarding your curves, Creampuff, it looks like you're running into two main problems: you're trying to make your sprites too small, and you're not adding enough "stages" to the rounding. To smoothly round from a horizontal line to a vertical one, you need to transition with shorter lines and single pixels. To get a good idea of what makes rounding look smooth, try zooming in with your art program of choice and playing with the circle tool. Start with the smallest circle, and slowly scale it up; you should see it pass through a few phases where it looks less round, which should show you what to avoid.
Here's your Zhyfeed sprite, recreated with rounder parts. Obviously it's a little too smooth, with stripes rather than segments and no defined mantle on the thorax, but this should give you a general idea. As for texturing, it's a bit harder to explain... You should try looking at some Pokemon sprites very closely. I always recommend trying to combine Pokemon sprites into original creatures when you're first starting out; not fusions, but your own designs made from existing parts. Having to combine arms, bodies, wings, and tails from sprites with different shapes and shading helps you to figure out things like how the sprites are shaded.