I'm fairly decent at realism with character portraits myself, but as much as I tried to make my own art work, I couldn't get anything congruent with the retro style. Since I'm going to want to stack features to get a wide range of different looks, I decided that the solution to this problem was proper pixel artists. Specifically, doll-makers.
|Modified from these portrait bases.|
Also, Julie has an art blog. Go look at it. :)