I use references a lot, but I hardly never draw with image next to me and copying directly from it to final work. I need references for different reasons. One is that if I don’t understand the structure of what I’m drawing, I look it up. Secondly I google up a lot imagery related to certain era, style, medium or color schemes.
References are sort of guideposts on the way to the finish, like “hey this is cool aim for this!” but the work mutates along the way depending how medium, my technical skills and imagination fill in. I guess creation process at it’s best is like drunkard on a track, you sorta need to focus on the track, what you want your artwork to look like, but also give space for shortcuts, stumbles and occasional brainvomit.