@jshjohnson I’m a letterer (former web designer) and I was the same way. I use a pre-made blank template. It’s completely stripped of styling and just adds the very basic content. This allows you to build it up for what the project needs.
Since Chris posted a screencast long ago on how to go from PSD to WordPress and used a specific theme called “Starkers” (which does the same thing), everyone will recommend it. However, it’s really “bulky” and I never liked it. Below is a template I have used for a while now and can’t say enough about it.
I have had a similar experience. I am a graphic designer learning to code my own sites but I had a client who wanted to control her backend so WordPress became a better option. What i did was explain that I was going to use a template and purchase the bundle to customize the css so that she would be able to control her text but I would control the design, even if a small amount of it. I was honest and explained that she could do the process without me and save some money or I could do it, and then train her on it. She went with that and I charged $350 to set the whole thing up and then do WordPress training too. Really she paid me for the hand holding but sometimes that is all a client wants.