I also signed up for a post conference workshop on taking Drupal to the next step. Unfortunately the workshop was only three hours and the instructors spent the first half an hour install Drupal and modules on people laptops. We didn’t get very far and I wanted to see how to create a theme. It looks like the best approach is to take a base theme and modify it to meet your needs. I took a look at some of the starter theme and there are tons of php and css files to customize. I’ll take a crack at theming Drupal one of these days, but right now MODX seems like the best choice for really coding the site the way I wanted.