They are afraid to look at anything as reference because they believe this would be 'stealing' or cheating to some degree. They mistakenly believe other artists draw strictly from what they can formulate in their minds. They do not understand that observations of such things as fabric and muscle tension in a pose, are essential as either learning tools or needed to work out details in existing compositions.
...I think this is a good place to bring this topic. I am very frustrated with having to tell new artists that they have bad habits to break -- and a fear of reference as a bad habit is a high one on my list.
It all brings a lot of issues to light...
Has the anti-theft mentality created myths of taboos that simply do not exist?
Are the guidelines too unclear for beginning artists to understand? What should we tell newer artists who do not know when they are crossing a line?
What can be done or said to make new artists understand that referencing is a necessary and useful tool? -- Is it a problem with confusion of WHAT KIND of materials they should be referencing? (IE -- look at photos taken by you, not other artist's works).
What other problems exist?
...Hash it out for yourselves.