She draws inspiration for her art from the Old Masters, especially from their use of chiaroscuro and dynamic symmetry, as a compositional tool, utilizing proportions such as the Golden Section.
Hanlon received her BFA in Painting in 1976 from Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA in Painting from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she has been on the faculty ever since. Her 1997 MFA thesis exhibition, 'Home Street Home', was attended by Mayor Willie Brown and the news media, raising almost $1500 for the Coalition on Homelessness. She continues to be involved in organizing annual fundraising art auctions for the Coalition as well as having her work published in the Street Sheet and Street Spirit, newspapers which help homeless people raise money for food and shelter.
In 2009 she was featured in the Artists Magazine Competition Spotlight with one of her urban landscapes which was a finalist in the Landscape category. She also paints non-traditional maritime images such as Death of an Oil Tanker which won Best in Show in the Coos Art Museum's 15th Annual Maritime Exhibit. Sea History magazine featured her maritime paintings in an article and on the cover in late 2010. One of her urban homeless landscapes is part of the traveling catalogued museum exhibition entitled Hobos to Street People: Artists' Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present touring California and Colorado.
'I feel strongly about the artist's role in society as witness to the state of our culture and world. Many of my paintings have addressed social, political and environmental issues of our time such as homelessness or our dependence upon oil and how that affects our maritime environment, which brings such beauty and sustenance to this planet.'