Spencer worked in the tradition of the earlier Dutch masters using a formalized style to depict naval engagements and ship's portraits. Unlike the majority of the artists of his day, he did not exhibit in London but worked almost exclusively from private commissions.
The artist's technique is meticulous and quite formalized. His sea battles were often copied from engravings made by other artists, but were always created in his own easily identifiable style. Spencer is known to have excelled in ship portraiture as well as his main focus on important sea battles.
Spencer is noted for working the same battle into a series of paintings. He completed no less than four individual scenes of Trafalgar, and specialized in offering different views of historical naval engagements as sets.